Andrew Andrews Is Pretty Great

The last great Husky basketball team was from the 2010/2011 season.  Isaiah Thomas’ last year, MBA and Justin Holiday playing big minutes; Wilcox, Ross (as a Freshman), Suggs, Overton, Gant, Aziz, all rounding out a deep and quality roster that saw this team run the table through the Pac-12 Tournament (with IT’s Cold Blooded moment against Arizona one of the most iconic single plays in the program’s history), nab a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and lose in the Round of 32 by three points to an Elite Eight-bound North Carolina Tar Heels team.

THAT … was a fun Husky basketball team.

Every year since then, I’ve tried to talk myself into this being a fun basketball team to watch.  As my expectations dwindled, I at least had hope that there’d be some entertainment value to those teams.  The 2011/2012 season saw two NBA prospects (Ross & Wroten) lead the team to a regular season conference title; but a first round exit in the Pac-12 Tournament relegated that team to the N.I.T.  The 2012/2013 season was built around C.J. Wilcox and not a whole lot else; they were bounced in the first round of the N.I.T.  We had hope for the 2013/2014 season with Wilcox in his senior year, alongside heavily hyped Nigel Williams-Goss, Andrew Andrews in his second year, and JuCo transfer Perris Blackwell rounding out our front court with some other hold-overs we hoped would see some natural improvement.  That team wasn’t even good enough to qualify for the N.I.T.  Which led us to last season, where we bottomed out with a mighty 5 conference wins.  NWG returned for his second season, Andrews was an upper-classman, Robert Upshaw transferred here and looked like the real deal, and Shawn Kemp went into his senior season.  By all accounts, last year’s team should have been something special, or at least A LITTLE better than it was.  Instead, Upshaw got kicked off the team, and the rest of the roster never really meshed.

Which brings us to this year, where the only notable hold-overs are Andrew Andrews and Donaven Dorsey.  Romar’s incoming Freshman class was one of the highest rated in the country (and maybe his highest rated ever), but with that comes a lot of uncertainty.  Would Romar be able to mold everyone into shape in time?  Would the players play well with one another?  Or, would they all be playing for themselves, in hopes to parlay their individual successes into NBA stardom?

It’s taken me a while to want to write about this Husky team, because aside from Andrews, I didn’t know much at all about these guys, aside from what I read in the newspapers.  But, reading about basketball is nothing compared to watching it, and soaking it all in.  I can say, from what I’ve seen so far this season, there’s A LOT to like.

For starters, I just have to say this, Andrew Andrews is playing out of his mind.  As the only senior on this team, he’s had a lot on his plate since the minute last season ended.  And, he has absolutely come through like gangbusters!  I’m sure everyone respects Romar and the other coaches, but basketball teams need on-court leaders, and Andrews has been that and then some.  When you factor in all the youth (six Freshmen playing regular minutes, with a transfer – Dime – also new to the program), this team was only going to go as far as Andrews was able to carry them, especially early in the season, when everyone was just getting used to playing together.

So, what has Andrews done?  Well, he’s leading the team in minutes (33), points (21.7), and free throws attempted and made (189 & 159, respectively).  He leads all guards in shooting percentage (.401%), and he’s second on the team in rebounds, assists, and steals per game (6.2, 4.7, & 1.4 respectively).  Andrews has always had the reputation as sort of a loose cannon when it came to the way he’d jack up crazy shots, but you don’t score over 1,500 points in your career by passing the ball all the time!  He’s currently ranked in the Top 10 of all time Husky scorers, just ahead of legends Detlef Schrempf and Brandon Roy.  Right now, he has 1,513 points.  If he manages to average 20 points per game the rest of the regular season, he’ll end up with 1,733, which would put him just ahead of IT for 7th all time.  An extended Pac-12 Tourney run, with a likely N.I.T. or NCAA Tourney appearance, and it wouldn’t be impossible to see him get up into the 1,800 range (he’d need to finish with 1,805 to tie Jon Brockman for 3rd all time).

In short, Andrew Andrews will go down as one of the greatest Huskies of all time.  I know points aren’t everything, and he’s played on some pretty bad teams the last three years; if he weren’t having the year he’s having now, with the success this team is having so far, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation.  But, he IS having the year he’s having, and this team IS successful so far, and Andrew Andrews is the biggest reason why.  If he’s able to lead this team back to the NCAA Tourney – after so many years in the wilderness with supposedly more talented players (Wroten, Ross, NWG) – then I don’t see how you don’t include Andrews in the same breath as the greats like IT, Roy, Brockman, Pondexter, Nate Rob, and the rest.  Here’s a guy who’s loyal, who stayed through his senior season, who was forced to play behind some highly-recruited 4-star prospects, who’s now shining the brightest when given the opportunity to lead his own team.  He’s the consummate Romar Guy, who has improved each and every year of his college career, and is finally reaping the rewards of all that hard work.  He’s one of the best players in the Pac-12 right now, and absolutely deserves to be in the discussion for Pac-12 Player of the Year.

This was going to be a different post, but sort of morphed into a love letter to Andrew Andrews.  I dunno, I feel like a lot of Husky fans are skeptical about the guy.  Like he’s all of a sudden going to fall apart, watch his field goal percentage plummet, and start jacking up even more crazy shots to compensate.  Do the haters not see how he’s getting so many of his points at the free throw line?  38.5% of his overall points are from free throws!  That’s crazy and awesome!  He’s going to find a way to get his and contribute to this team’s success, even if he has an off shooting night here and there.

But, probably more importantly, as this season continues, there’s going to be less and less of a need for Andrews to be The Guy.  As players like Dejounte Murray and David Crisp start to assert themselves, and as our bigs get more comfortable with the college game and the way fouls are called … I mean, we’re already starting to see those guys step their games up.  But, going forward, I would anticipate there will be less pressure on Andrews to carry the whole team.  He’ll be free to play within the flow of the game and continue to contribute in his usual ways, with the peace of mind to know that it doesn’t have to be ALL on him.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about the rest of the team, as Husky Basketball Week prattles on.

The UW Alumni Basketball Game Was Amazing

Just know that the following post is coming to you completely, 100% snark-free.  The spring and summer of 2013 – if it’s remembered for anything – will be remembered as a vast wasteland of Seattle Sports Hell.  Dark, desolate, Mariners-filled … we don’t get to look forward to the Sonics returning, we likely won’t have pro hockey anytime soon, and the wait for Seahawks and Husky football is absolutely excruciating.  It’s been a crappy last few months, and it’s going to continue to be a crappy next few months.

But, smack dab in the middle of our calendar year, an oasis in the endless desert that is Seattle sports, we had an event at Hec Ed yesterday afternoon that – for a few hungover hours – left me feeling like a kid again.  With a smile plastered on my face like the first time I ever saw a pair of naked boobs in my face.  And, truth be told, every time since.

For an idea that seems so much like a no-brainer, this was a first for Husky basketball.  An All Star Game comprised exclusively of Husky players over the last 10 years or so.  Split into two squads:  pre-2009 and post-2009.

You’re talking about a who’s who Husky greats!

Pre-2009:

Will Conroy
Brandon Roy
Nate Robinson
Tre Simmons
Spencer Hawes
Bobby Jones
Jamaal Williams
Mike Jensen
Hans Gasser

Post-2009:

Isaiah Thomas
Quincy Pondexter
Jon Brockman
Justin Holiday
Justin Dentmon
Terrence Ross
Tony Wroten
Matthew Bryan-Amaning
Darnell Gant
Ryan Appleby

I had a feeling that the older guys would win the game, thinking that they SURELY would have wanted it more.  Plus, you’ve got some wily vets on that team who can pull from a deeper bag of tricks.  Couple things of note, though:  the pre-2009 bench was MUCH leaner (indeed, there was even one fewer player on the pre-2009 roster), and the post-2009 team was flat-out stacked.

Post-2009 won the game 107-103, though for the most part it didn’t even feel all that close.  You’re talking about an All Star Game, so defense wasn’t really the name of the game.  Post-2009 generally held comfortable leads, while Pre-2009 would go on the occasional spurts to tie the game or hold brief, small leads.

The Spencer Hawes/Jon Brockman battle was epic.  That was surely worth the price of admission by itself.  Hawes was certainly the best player on his team, scoring 21 points and grabbing 17 boards, but Brockman was the only guy on the post-2009 team that could even come close to containing him.

Will Conroy looked like a man possessed; I think he wanted to win that game more than anyone.  He didn’t come out of the game until midway in the second half after he’d picked up his 4th foul; I was sure he was going to just stay in the game until he fouled out (apparently, they were playing by NBA foul rules, as Conroy picked up his 5th late in the game, but stayed in).  He didn’t appear to have off-the-charts numbers when I watched live, but apparently he ended up with a triple-double (16 points, 12 boards, 11 assists), with a quadruple-double if you count the 10 turnovers.

Tre Simmons led his team in scoring with 23, making 6 of 19 shots (5 of 16 from behind the arc).  Nate Rob started each half, then left after about 11 minutes each time and never returned.  He had a quiet 7 points even though he was jacking up shots practically from mid-court.  Roy had a quiet game too, but started to pick it up in the second half; he finished with 13 points.  Bobby Jones didn’t get into the game (I think) until the second half (for some reason; I blame Warren Moon’s erratic basketball coaching style) and was instant offense in the early going.  Mike Jensen looked better in yesterday’s game than he did in his entire Husky career, making all five of his shots and remaining somewhat active on defense.  Jamaal Williams is a big dude who provided a physical presence for the vets.  As for Hans Gasser … he played five minutes and scored 0 points.  So there’s that.

Isaiah Thomas was the MVP of the game, with 24 points on 10 of 20 shooting (4 of 11 from behind the arc).  He simply took over in the second half and willed his team to victory (just as he did for us so many times in his Husky career).  Q-Pon somehow managed to get to the free throw line 11 times, making 8.  He had a quiet 17 points.  Tony Wroten looked MUCH improved, both with his jumper and at the free throw line.  It was pretty sweet to see how he and IT played off of one another.  That 2011/2012 team really could’ve been a mad-dog with both of those guys playing in the back court.

Justin Dentmon continued his hot string of shooting, carrying it over from his final season in a Husky uniform.  Holiday and Ross were fairly quiet, scoring a combined 17 points, but taking only a combined 17 shots.  MBA was effective in limited duty (9 points & 8 boards in 15 minutes).  Gant and Appleby were limited in a numbers crunch, as the rest of the squad was too good to sit for too long.

The whole event was a total victory.  There was a Legends Game to kick things off, with some real old timers doing a short game with 10-minute halves.  Lorenzo Romar won the MVP of that game as he jacked three 3-pointers in finishing with 11 points.  There was a 3-point contest at halftime of the Alumni Game, with Dentmon beating out Simmons, Pondexter, Nate-Rob and Appleby.  And, after the Alumni Game, they had a Dunk Contest with MBA, Holiday, Gant, and Ross.  The latter two made it to the finals, with Gant winning it all thanks to a fan-vote on Twitter.  Gant’s best dunk was a bounce off of the shot clock followed by a slam.  Ross’s best dunk happened in the first round (and it was the best dunk of the whole day), where he had Tony Wroten go 15 rows into the stands, throw the ball into the court, and on a bounce Ross caught it and windmill’d it home.  Each netted a 50 for their efforts on those two, but that’s what happens when you use your best dunk in the first round.

When I first heard about this event, I had it pegged as something that might draw 5,000 fans or so.  Turns out, they sold out, with the Will Call line stretching all the way down the street to the New Husky Stadium.  If they’re able to bring in the same crop of guys every year, I don’t see why they wouldn’t keep this tradition going!  You’re talking about 10 NBA players on the same college basketball court putting on one hell of a show.  I would very much go to this every year they’re able to put it on, no doubt about it.

Huskies End Regular Season On A Bummer

Since I dragged my ass to Hec-Ed to watch this silly game, I’m going to write about it!

And since it was Senior Day, I’m going to try my damnedest to not rag too hard about the Seniors on this team.  But, holy mother of god are these some of the most underwhelming Seniors I’ve ever seen leave this school.

At this point, I’m beyond the point of really giving too much of a shit.  The season is over, and pretty soon I won’t have to worry about this team ever again.  But, all the flaws of this team were on FULL display Saturday morning.

You know what kind of gets downplayed a lot when people talk about Abdul Gaddy?  Everyone likes to talk about how many turnovers he produces, about how he’s not a very good shooter, and as one of the most highly-touted players coming out of high school, what a disappointment he’s become.  On the flipside, his supporters will point to the fact that he’s one of the top guys in Husky basketball history with assists.  And they will also lament a serious lack of a quality big man, which has surely hampered his numbers in both assists AND turnovers.

But, until you watch this team live, and until you see them play a team like UCLA – who is constantly pushing the ball up the court for fastbreak points – you don’t get the full picture about how SLOW Abdul Gaddy truly is.  When you look at the Bruins, who like to run all the time, you’re looking at a team that isn’t always in a great defensive position.  So, when they surge for a fastbreak bucket, more often than not, you – as the opponent – should be able to push the ball right back down the court for your own fastbreak opportunity!  And yet, EVERY SINGLE TIME, Abdul Gaddy would slow the ball up at half court and wait until every Bruin was in proper defensive position.

Is he not good enough to push the ball?  Is he TOO worried about making a mistake?  Is he favoring that knee he busted up a couple years ago?  For a guy who doesn’t seem too concerned with making boneheaded passes on the reg, he seems WAY too concerned with not getting too carried away driving towards the basket.

But, of course, he isn’t the reason why we lost this game on Saturday.

Now, I genuinely like Aziz N’Diaye.  His defense in the paint is second to none.  He had a couple of blocks on Saturday that were out of this world!  He seemed to jump out of the gym to swat those balls, which makes you wonder why he settles for so many crappy lay-ins off the backboard when he could just as easily dunk the ball.

I’ve seen him do it!  I know he’s capable of dunking!  He’s seven God damned feet tall!  With his wingspan, he can practically dunk the ball while standing flat-footed!  Reasonably, he would need to jump the height of 2-3 stacked phonebooks, depending on the size of the city.

But, whatever.  Offense isn’t his game.  Since he does everything else well on the defensive end, I’ll give him a pass.  Truth be told, I liked him in there early, as I thought he really gave UCLA star Travis Wear fits down low.  Wear can’t do ANYTHING in the paint with Aziz between him and the basket.  So, with Aziz in the game, that pushed one of UCLA’s premier big men to the 3-point line.  Advantage:  Washington.  And, you could see its effectiveness when Aziz left the game, as Wear took advantage of smaller guys like Jarreau and Simmons.  But, as the game went on, and it looked more and more like the Huskies were going to have to actually SCORE to win this game (and not just sit there preventing baskets like they did in the first half), Aziz was a liability they could ill-afford to keep on the court.

But, of course, he isn’t the reason why we lost this game on Saturday.

Scott Suggs has been an entirely different kind of disappointment altogether.  He was lost for the season last year and we all thought that was probably for the best.  Had the team needed him, or if he had already used a red-shirt year, Suggs could have played for half a season (or thereabouts).  But, with a healthy portion of the shooting coming from Wroten, Ross, and Wilcox, last year’s team didn’t exactly need a fourth wing player.  Minutes and shots were already at a premium as it was.  AND, you figured with Wroten and Ross both likely to leave after the season (which they did), we would need SOMEONE to pick up some of the slack.

I had hoped Suggs would be that guy.  I had high hopes of him stepping up and taking over games.  Instead, he’s pretty much been what he’s been every year of his college career:  a complementary player.  A guy who doesn’t shoot more than he has to, who rarely takes the ball inside, who can’t really finish at the rim, and who can’t draw fouls and get to the free throw line.

On Saturday, Suggs was a man possessed.  Romar gave him the important task of guarding the best Freshman in the Pac-12 – Shabazz Muhammad – and I thought for the most part, Suggs did a brilliant job.  Yes, Muhammad got his points, and he scored a decent percentage of his shots, but when Suggs was on the floor, he was constantly in his face, physically bodying up on the bulkier Muhammad every chance he got.  When Suggs scored that basket and nearly got T’d up for talking trash, I thought that was just the momentum-swinger he needed.  Unfortunately, Romar opted to take him out of the game immediately to try to prevent that technical foul.

Which, in the end, goes a long way towards explaining why the Huskies lost this particular game:  timing.  Just as the Huskies were on the ass-end of some poor officiating (what else is new from the Pac-12?), the Huskies were also cooled off by timing and circumstance.  Like Romar taking Suggs out just as he was heating up.  Like in the middle of the 2nd half, when the Huskies ripped off a momentum-swinging run and had all the fans on their feet and yelling like crazy, UCLA REALLY took advantage of their timeouts.  They tried to slow things down to a crawl, but the Huskies were still able to take a 2-point lead when all was said and done.  Unfortunately, right after the Bruins played their timeout game, we were stuck with a TV-timeout about 30 seconds later.  That 2-point lead with 8 minutes to go in the game wasn’t nearly the advantage we needed from such a huge momentum swing, and in the end the Bruins were able to walk us down and beat us handily.

Which makes it all the more frustrating that Suggs only ended up taking 10 shots (hitting 6 of them).  It’s one thing to not force things, and to let the flow of the game come to you.  But, when you see a guy in Wilcox, who was OBVIOUSLY having an off-day shooting, there’s got to be a switch you can flip where you take over the game offensively.  Suggs doesn’t have that switch.  Or, if he does, he constantly leaves it in the OFF position.  Either way, he did more than enough to keep us in the game, but not nearly enough to win it for us.

One final comment before I’ll close:  Where’s The Hustle?

Desmond Simmons is the ONLY guy who hustles on this team.  A couple other guys are try-hard types, like Suggs and Aziz and Andrews, but no one truly hustles like Simmons.  From Simmons, you get the feeling that every possession is life-or-death.  That’s the type of play that really endears someone to Husky fans more than anything else.  It’s why guys like Darnell Gant, Justin Holiday, Jon Brockman, and Bobby Jones were such fan favorites.  Anyway, here’s to hoping we see more hustle out of our 2013/2014 Huskies.  It will be a refreshing change of pace.

Also, my prediction:  the Huskies lose to the Cougars, then they lose in the first round of the CBI, then I puke my guts out.

2008: A Seattle Sports Apocalypse

Editor’s Note:  To read this blog post, click HERE.  It is one of Seattle Sports Hell’s “Featured Articles”.

Well, This Sucks: Tony Wroten Also Enters NBA Draft

And just like that, a little over half of our scoring is gone.  Darnell Gant, a senior, probably would’ve stayed another decade if the rules allowed.  Terrence Ross, after a nothing Freshman season, came on strong as a Sophomore.  And Tony Wroten, a guy we all knew coming into the season would be One & Done, had probably the most reasons to stay.  All are gone.

I’ve already belabored the Tony Wroten issue enough, so I won’t get into those aforementioned reasons to stay.  For as many reasons as there were, there is probably an equal number of reasons to leave.

First and foremost, he’s projected as a mid-to-late first round pick.  The NBA LOVES drafting on potential.  I can’t imagine there are any guards out there with more potential than Tony Wroten.  He’s got the height, he’s got court vision, he’s got an ability to drive to the hoop, and he can be a tenacious defender when he wants to be.

The big question is:  will he ever develop a jump shot?  Another season in college could’ve done that.  Of course, just spending a year on an NBA roster (or on the NBDL) could do the same thing.

What you really have to look at is the risk/reward with him.  Is another season in college worth the risk?  There’s the obvious risk of injury.  The great unknown.  Ultimately, you never want that to be your deciding factor, because if you’re living your life constantly worried about injury, you’re not really living.

The other, more subtle risk is:  What if Tony Wroten DIDN’T get better with another college season?

I think all of us Wroten fans in Seattle were banking on him spending the summer practicing his shot, then coming back to the team as a force of nature (thereby increasing his Draft Stock to the point where he’d be a surefire lottery pick).  But, there was the very real chance that Wroten’s jumper wouldn’t improve overnight.  It might take him a decade just to get to the point where he’s not a complete liability behind the arc.  If he would’ve come back to the Huskies and been the same exact player as he was this past season – saying nothing of the possibility of him regressing – his Draft Stock would’ve plummeted.  Because he would’ve lost that one aspect of his game that’s impossible to quantify:  his POTENTIAL.

It’s a sad-but-true realtiy in the world of professional basketball.  If you’re not drastically improving from year-to-year in college, then you’re failing miserably.  Two years of the same exact player doesn’t have nearly the cachet as a raw, talented-yet-flawed One & Done player.

The very reason why Tony Wroten should’ve stayed in school is the same reason why he so desperately needs to leave now.  I think he knew, deep down, that he wasn’t going to get all that much better in one off-season.  Even doubling his 3-point shot percentage only leaves him at a little over 30%.  At that point, how much better is he REALLY going to get?  He would’ve had to have tripled his percentage to somewhere in the upper 40% rate for his Draft Stock to really go up.  And that just wasn’t going to happen.

The other aspects of his game he could’ve worked on – his turnovers, his right hand, his decision-making – can just as easily be fixed in the pros.  You gotta figure with some of those passes that were flying off of teammates’ hands or going out of bounds, they’ll be caught and translated into buckets in the pros.  Another year of college isn’t going to do anything to rectify that.

So, that’s it then.  This is, by far, the darkest point of the Husky off-season.  All you Wroten haters get your wish.  I hope you’re happy with the mediocre team we’re going to watch next season.

On the plus side, it can only get better from here.  Hopefully we’ll be able to nab a couple JC Transfers to round out our roster.  We have an immediate opening for both Power Forward and Point Guard.

Why You Should Want Tony Wroten To Come Back Next Season

There are any number of reasons why he SHOULD come back – he needs to develop a jumper, he needs to develop a right hand, he needs to refine some of the wilder aspects of his game like his passing & decision-making – but what I find most disconcerting is a complete and utter lack of a desire by Husky fans to WANT him back.

If you polled the entirety of Husky basketball fans, you’d run across close to half of them who don’t like the guy and never will like the guy.  Believe me, I know, these people are fucking looney tunes, but they’re out there and they’re ridiculous!

Why WOULDN’T you want him back?  Regardless of what Terrence Ross decides to do, with Tony Wroten you’ve got a kid who is ONLY going to get better as he matures.  And as he stands now – an immature, cocky Freshman – you’ve still got something glorious!  As a True Freshman, he averaged 16 points, nearly 2 steals, nearly 4 assists, and 5 rebounds per game.  He went to the line nearly 8 times a game (easily leading the team) and his field goal percentage is a little over 44%.

Imagine Hypothetical Basketball Player X.  HBPX is like one of those characters you can create in a video game.  Let’s say you can configure his settings so he replicates all of those stats I’ve just given you in the previous paragraph AS A TRUE FRESHMAN.  Now, just imagine what that player will be capable of in years two, three, and four (although, let’s be realistic:  it’s bloody unlikely we see years three and four, but that’s neither here nor there).  Are you telling me you wouldn’t want Hypothetical Basketball Player X to be on your basketball team next season?

The major variable, of course, is Terrence Ross.  So, let’s break it down.

Terrence Ross Leaves For The NBA:  well, at this point, you root for the Huskies and they’ve just lost their best player.  Do you REALLY want to lose your second-best player?  The guy who will BE your best player next season?  Terrence Ross leaves, but Wroten stays, then you can at least harbor delusions of this team coming together and putting up another run for the Conference Title.  Without BOTH of those guys?  Say hello to 6th Place, because you’re not going to win too many games when your leading scorers (Wilcox & Suggs) are both outside jump shooters and you’ve got no guards to go inside and do the dirty work (unless Gaddy blossoms, as we all hope he does).

Terrence Ross Stays With The Huskies:  it’s this scenario that Husky fans salivate over.  At this point, those Anti-Wrotenites don’t give two shits about whether or not Wroten stays or goes; and in fact, I bet most of them would rather he just go away and we’ll take our chances without him.  I think that’s moronic.  Look at the teams in the Final Four right now.  What do they have?  All American Talent, from top to bottom.  If you want to be one of those elite teams, you’ve GOT to have the kind of talent on your team that Wroten would provide.  Considering he’s only going to get better – because, when you’re in college, there’s pretty much no way for you to go BUT up, especially when you play under Romar – that’s just going to make this team a runaway force to be reckoned with come next season.  Terrence Ross will be The Man, Tony Wroten will have worked on all aspects of his game that needed working on, Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs and Aziz N’Diaye will be Seniors, C.J. Wilcox will be a Junior, and all those other Freshmen we have on our roster will have that season of experience (even if they rode pine mostly, they still got all that practice time).

We only lost one senior, Darnell Gant.  With both Ross & Wroten back, WE will be the front-runners!  WE will have the national media behind our backs from the start!  WE will get all the attention in the conference!  Which means WE will have our stock bolstered in the Pac-12, which will hopefully translate to our continued success in convincing new top-flight recruits to sign here, instead of those other teams you see in the Final Four every year.

But, like I said, regardless of what Ross does, we still need Wroten.  If for nothing else, we need his ball-handling skills.  If he leaves, we have Gaddy and …

I don’t think any Husky fan out there trusts Wilcox or Suggs to handle the ball down the court.  And I don’t think Abdul Gaddy can play 40 minutes every game.  And I REALLY don’t think any of our lesser, benchwarming point guard types are ready for Prime Time.

Put it all together, and we as Husky fans better get behind the idea of Tony Wroten coming back next year.  Quit being a bunch of bitches and recognize elite talent when you see it!

Huskies Lose In The N.I.T.

I’ll do an official season recap sometime in the near future.  But, right now, it’s time to acknowledge the game we watched last night.

It’s terribly frustrating, but them’s the breaks.  This Husky team has NBA talent all over the place, but unfortunately they’re not NBA stars yet.  One day, guys like Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten, C.J. Wilcox and the rest might make for fantastic players at the Pro Level, but right now they’re just college kids whose basketball games are incomplete.

C.J. Wilcox has a Pro jump shot.  But, while he’s made some strides with his driving ability, the ability to create his own shot is just not there yet.

Tony Wroten has the size scouts love in a point guard, and he can be a wizard at times in the paint with both of his abilities to drive and to rebound, but his jump shot is one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

Terrence Ross seemingly has the whole package going for him right now.  Wicked outside shot, ability to dribble-drive, a little bit of a post-up game, and a nose for rebounds.  Of the underclassmen on this team, Ross is the most likely to leave for the NBA and he’s also the most likely to make an immediate impact.  But, for as good as he is, you can’t deny the fact that he disappears for long stretches.  In the N.I.T., that certainly wasn’t evident, as he was a man on a mission whenever he touched the ball.  But, in the regular season – when the games arguably mattered more – Ross was here one minute and gone the next.

Last night, we saw the great in our team.  And we also saw the awful.

C.J. Wilcox was a ghost in the first half as he was held scoreless and practically without an attempt.  That harkens back to the fact that he can’t really create his own shot yet.  Still, in the second half, he broke free a lot more and helped lead our comeback push into Overtime.  He would do himself a great service by returning to the Huskies next season.

Tony Wroten was even worse in the first half.  See, a smart defensive team will pack it in the lane and force him to either shoot from outside (which he just won’t do for the most part, because he CAN’T hit a jumper to save his life), or force up a crazy runner from outside the paint.  Which is what we saw here last night.  Crazy runner after crazy runner, clang-clang-clanging off the rim.  And since there were so many defenders packed down in the lane, it was nearly impossible for him to gather his own rebound like he’s done so much this season.

I’m only going to say this, like, five more times:  Tony Wroten needs to come back to the Huskies and he needs to spend the entire off-season working on nothing but his jump shot.  He is NOT ready for the NBA right now, and if he tries to make the jump, he’s going to be riding a lot of pine until his shot IS ready.

Terrence Ross pretty much carried this team last night, that’s undeniable.  To advise him to return to the Huskies would be a purely selfish gesture.  Nevertheless, with the promise that he’ll get 20 shots a game, I’d REALLY like to see what this team is capable of with a healthy and motivated Terrence Ross, college Junior.

I don’t know what this team is going to look like next season.  What I do know is that Abdul Gaddy is ready to make the leap.  No, not the NBA, but as the leader of this Husky team.  He’s shown flashes of late as to his aggressiveness.  Next year, I’d like to see him take it to the next level.  His jumper isn’t as attrocious as Wroten’s, but it could certainly use some work.  But, I’d also like to see him dribble drive into the paint more.  He’s as capable as any point guard around the rim, might as well take advantage of that.

I wasn’t overly impressed with anyone else last night.  It’s a shame for Darnell Gant; he certainly deserved better.  Still, I thought he looked extremely tentative with ball in hand and a wide-open shot – as if visions of our loss to UCLA were still rattling around in his head.  It looked like he could’ve had his shot rolling if he just would’ve given it half a chance.

Tough break, all around.  Especially given the comeback we mounted.  Down 12 at halftime (thanks to a last-nanosecond three pointer by Gant before the break), you had to figure the Huskies would have another run in them.  And, of course, they did, but this was unlike our other second-half comebacks.  Mostly because it took the WHOLE second half.  Still, it was real exciting there when we got the steal and the lay in by Wilcox to tie it.

One thing I’ll whine about, which has nothing to do with anything:  can you BELIEVE this team was never able to hit a late game-winning shot with time expiring?  The whole season!  And there were opportunities; usually you at least LUCK into one or two.  But, this year, these Huskies couldn’t buy the kind of luck that normally comes for free.  I really thought that shot by Wroten at the buzzer was going to rattle in off the backboard.  But, what are you gonna do?

Now, we wait.  It won’t be a long wait.  We’ll know by April 10th (and probably a lot sooner than that) who we’re going to have on this team next season and who we won’t.  Start crossing those fingers.

Washington Huskies Headed For N.I.T. Semi-Finals

Great game last night.  One thing you can’t say about the NCAA Tournament:  you rarely ever get a real live home game for your team.

You do realize you're cheering for losers, don't you?

There are a couple of arguments at play.  #1 – Would I rather the Huskies be in the NCAA Tournament?  Well, yeah, of course!  I would rather the Huskies win the whole fucking thing and make my dreams come true!  But, that’s neither here nor there, because this team couldn’t even beat Oregon State on a neutral floor.

Which leads us to Argument #2 – Am I excited about the opportunity to win the N.I.T.?

Look, I just think it’s awesome that the Huskies are still playing, in a single-elimination tournament, against teams that are roughly as good as we are (or, at least, can be).  I got to go to two of these games, because the Huskies are a #1 seed, and I would’ve been to a third except my birthday fell awfully close to last Friday’s game and I was out of town.  I’ve already been to more N.I.T. games than I have regular season games this season!  That should say SOMETHING about my excitement level.

Last Tuesday was fun because it was something different, because there was practically nobody in attendance, and because I was able to get really fucking awesome seats for the price of a song.  Yesterday was just as fun (in spite of having significantly worse seats) because of the electric atmosphere and, more importantly, the opponent.

Who DOESN’T love beating the shit out of Oregon?  Yeah, a 4-point win might not be “beating the shit” out of anyone, but fuck it.  And fuck Oregon!  The Oregon Ducks can eat my ass burgers!

And did I mention that yesterday’s was one whale of a game?  Because it was!  I don’t think either team had more than a 10-point lead.  The Dawgs would go on a roll, the Ducks would bounce back.  The Ducks would go on a roll, the Dawgs ditto.  We make some stops and get the crowd into it, they hit a dagger three-pointer or have their big man sink a crazy hook shot in traffic.

Terrence Ross led the way, making it that much more difficult to see him go this offseason.  He had 24 points on 50% shooting from the field.  Tony Wroten chipped in 22, with 10 coming at the line (side note:  the Oregon Duck fan I happened to be sitting next to kept muttering insults under his breath whenever Wroten did something bad; funny, didn’t hear much out of the guy when Wroten was leading the parade to the free throw line in the second half).  C.J. Wilcox was as cold as cold can be in the first half (3 points, with terrible shooting), but he made up for it in the second half to finish with 17 points (including his final 6 at the line at the very end of the game when things were still in doubt).

The players of the game on the defensive end were probably a combination of Wilcox and Darnell Gant.  The Ducks’ big men were pretty strong in the paint (especially when N’Diaye was out with foul trouble), but it was E.J. Singler who was single-handedly destroying us in the first half.  He had either 16 or 17 points at halftime, but after that, we shut him down with a combination of Wilcox and Gant (I know for a fact he never scored when Gant was blanketing him) to the tune of 2 or 3 points in the second period.  That was the ballgame right there; if we didn’t figure out a way to slow down Singler, we would’ve lost that game, no question about it.

Interesting rotation last night, as well.  A whole lot of 4-guard lineup (with Gaddy, Wilcox, Wroten & Ross) with either Gant or Seferian-Jenkins (who played 15 minutes in N’Diaye’s absence).  No Shawn Kemp Jr. and only a token 5 minutes out of Desmond Simmons; I guess Romar really wanted that physicality that only ASJ can bring (when N’Diaye isn’t around, that is).  Of course, against the Ducks (who aren’t a particularly tall group), that’s acceptable, and in the end is what it took to beat them.

So, the Huskies are in the Final Four.  How about that?  We play the winner of the Minnesota/Middle Tennessee game.  Can’t say as I’m exactly quaking in my boots over either of those teams (but we’ve lost to worse this year).  The Final looks a bit more advanced, as it’ll be either UMass, Stanford, or Nevada.

Finally, can I just say how proud I am of the fans who filled Hec-Ed last night?  They booed those Oregon Ducks cheerleaders something FIERCE whenever they got on the court (don’t ask me why they were involved in the festivities when it was a Husky home game; I blame the National Invitation Tournament).

The Huskies Have Played Their Way Into The N.I.T.

In the end, it all came down to Free Throws.  In any given game, you can boil down the reason why you lost to any number of factors (offensive boards, turnovers, personal fouls, outside shooting, selfish play), but more often than not you can look at the difference in score (today:  2 points) and the number of free throws missed (today:  14) and you can look no further, because if you made a number of free throws that’s even REMOTELY respectable for a big-time college basketball team, you would’ve won that game.

Gant missed his only two, Gaddy missed his only one.  Ross and Wilcox (not only two of the best shooters on the Huskies, but two of the best shooters in the entire CONFERENCE) both went 1 for 3.  Desmond Simmons went 1 for 2.  But, no one will talk about how the rest of the team combined to shoot 3 for 11, because Tony Wroten shot 9 of 15 from the line, including missing four in a row with less than a minute to play and the Huskies down by one.

I’m not going to sit here and baby the kid, though.  He blew it!  If you’re a big-time NBA type of player, you make those free throws.  Hell, at the very least you make ONE of those free throws!  Wroten didn’t do it, so the brunt of the blame falls on him.  That’s what happens when you keep the ball & you take the important shots at the end of the game:  you take the brunt of the criticism when the game ends and your team loses by 2.  That’s just the way it is, and you’re damn right it’s fair.  If Terrence Ross or C.J. Wilcox were in the same boat, I’d be saying the same things.

The fact of the matter is, I love the way Tony Wroten plays, but he’s got a lot to improve upon.  Free throws are one aspect.  Going to his right is another.  Limiting turnovers is another.  And outside shooting is yet another.  I’d love for him to work on all these things while still in a Husky uniform next season … shit, I’d love for EVERYONE to come back next season.

And I hope I’m wrong in the title of this post.  I hope the Huskies have just enough clout to crack the Top 60.  But, if they HAVE to play in one of the play-in games (which is my prediction, if they’re not snubbed outright), I guess I’ll take it.

And to you retards who are talking about the Huskies MAYBE playing in the C.B.I., stop being retarded.  If they don’t make it into the NCAA Tournament, they’ll be a Number 1 Seed in the N.I.T. so just shut the fuck up.

Lorenzo Romar Deserves To Be Pac-12 Coach Of The Year

Pending the results of the next two games, obviously.  Because to get this far, then lose to the worst team in the conference (USC), followed by a team in turmoil (UCLA), would be a great way to kill any coach of the year momentum.

The arguments against Romar are few:  he’s got a roster filled with future NBA stars (likely three, maybe even up to four).  That’s nice and everything, but that doesn’t automatically make you a championship team.  The NBA talent the Huskies currently have isn’t equal to the NBA talent across the country (like, say, Kentucky).  First of all, you have to look at the role players around that NBA talent.  I would argue that Kentucky’s role players are far more impressive than those on the Huskies.  The Huskies have three guys who can score on a regular basis; the rest of the guys do what they can, but they’re not exactly world-beaters.  Plus, you have to factor in how thin our team is depth-wise.  We frequently run with a 7-man rotation (Gaddy, Wroten, Aziz, Gant, Ross, Simmons, Wilcox) with cursory minutes going to guys like Seferian-Jenkins and Shawn Kemp Jr.  Aside from the big three (Wroten, Ross, & Wilcox), you will STRUGGLE to find a guy who is currently playing at even a D-League level.  That isn’t to say those other guys won’t blossom; that’s just saying that, right now, this is what Romar has to deal with.  And he’s KILLING it.

The arguments for Romar winning the Coach of the Year award are many.  At the top of the heap, you have to talk about the veterans we lost.

This Husky team lost four MAJOR contributors to last year’s team!  IT was our team leader, MBA was our primary big man, Holiday was a Jack-of-all-trades who was also a lockdown defender for guards and forwards alike, and Overton was a lockdown defender for the other team’s best guard.  Overton was also our all-world 6th man who could run the offense in IT’s absence (however brief they were last season) or when IT needed a spell from running the show.

In their place, we have Gant as our only senior who plays regular minutes (and even those tend to fluctuate thanks to foul trouble).  Gaddy is in his third season, but he spent the last half of last season coming back from surgery.  Aziz is in his second season in D-I ball.  Ross is in his second season, but he played a minor role on last year’s team until tournament time.  Wilcox made a name for himself last year after red-shirting the year before, but he’s still fairly new to the system.  And Simmons red-shirted last year.  Everyone else, including our leading scorer, are brand spankin’ new players.

Regardless of their collective talent, it’s MIGHTY difficult to mix and match a bunch of new and young guys into a unit that can win you some ballgames.  You’ve got to get everyone on the same page scheme-wise, get everyone to learn the defense, find the floor matchups that work best, set up a rotation that gives guys enough minutes to keep them fresh and improve their overall games.

THEN, tack on the early-season turmoil with our 6-5 start.  Coming back from such a mediocre-to-poor non-conference schedule to potentially go 15-3 and win the Pac-12 conference outright is nothing short of amazing.  You’d have to figure that, with the talent we have, the Huskies would be a better team than they were in those first 11 games; but to be THIS good against this conference (regardless of how “down” it is, these teams are still hated rivals and are giving us their best effort every time out) is better than I could have possibly imagined.

Now, look at the other head coaches being talked about for this award.  Arizona?  I’m sorrry, but we beat that team twice this season.  That should automatically take Sean Miller out of the running.  Colorado?  Come back to me when they win a road game.  Cal?  Seriously, how difficult of a road have they faced?  Their most-impressive win was the game @ Washington (we never had a chance to play them on their home court to see if we could return the favor).  But, you’re talking about a team in Cal who is pretty much the opposite of Washington.  They RETAINED all of their veteran leadership from last season!  They didn’t have a bunch of new guys coming in to learn a new offense and a new defense.  They didn’t have to tinker early in the season to see which players played best together.  They got to keep right on truckin’.  AND, in spite of all of that, they still couldn’t do what we’ve done thus far to date.  If we do what we’re supposed to do and win these next two games, the Huskies will win the Pac-12 conference outright.  Cal couldn’t do that!  The best they can hope for is a tie (because, seriously, there’s no way we’re losing both of these games).

Give it to Romar.  The man has earned it this season.

Unless, of course, this team loses its next two games.  Then, forget everything I just said.  Coach of the Year candidates don’t go to the NIT.